Cultural literacy

Apparently, I’ve never gone to a movie on the day after Thanksgiving, or else I’d forgotten that it is really busy then.  At any rate, I went to go see Lincoln with my mom yesterday.  We got there just as the show was supposed to start, and then there was a big line outside the theater, plus it wound around a few times inside.  We did get in just as the show was starting, but it was completely packed and we had to sit separately.  Oh well, going to the movies with someone is really the two of you doing something by yourself at the same time, right?  It’s not like we would be sitting there discussing it as we went along.

Anyway, I was wishing my son, Jesse, was with me because he is such a history buff.  I’ll take him to see it at Christmas if he hasn’t seen it by then (he went with two siblings to see Red Dawn – obviously not as good, but they’d been waiting for it).

At one point, if I were with Jesse, I would have said, “Is that Thaddeus Stevens?”  He would have been impressed with my historical prowess (although, ahem, it did say on the wall, “The office of Thaddeus Stevens,” but maybe he would have missed that).

I imagine Thaddeus Stevens was scarier in real life.

But!  People!  In one of the final scenes of the movie, there’s a view of a courthouse building, with the words, “Appomattox Courthouse, April 9, 1865” on the bottom of the screen.  Here comes a man atop a white horse, dressed in Rebel Gray, who has a white moustache and beard.  Here, he looks remarkably like this:

Yes, Virginia, that is Robert E. Lee.

And two adults within earshot, in different parties, said, “Is that Lee?”  I mean, my god, who else would it be?  Do the filmmakers have to tell us exactly who every.single.person in the film is?  Can we not expect that people who are educated enough to want to go to a historical movie like Lincoln would know by sight the greatest military mind ever born in the U.S., especially when given context clue after context clue after stinking context clue?  SHEESH!!!!!! 


So, that brings me to the idea of cultural literacy.  Even in this age of Wikipedia (which I love, donate to, and use every single day), when you can look every date and name that you come across, let’s have a foundation of knowledge that does in fact include recognizing some characters of history.  There simply are things that one must know to be an informed citizen. 

I have the What Your ____ Grader Needs to Know series in the library, thanks to my years as a homeschooling mom.  I need to figure out a methodical way of working my way through the most important tidbits in those books with classes as they come to the library.  Do you have any ideas?

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